Sunday, 31 July 2022

What Did Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Get Wrong About Croatia?

July 31, 2022 - In one of the least important articles ever posted on this site, we examine a brief conversation in the TV series 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' which features Croatia as a plot point.

Disclaimer no. 1: Yes, I know I'm late. The episode I'm talking about here, the 7th episode of the fourth season of the Amazon Prime Video series, was released in March, but hey, there are so many shows to see, so little time!

Disclaimer no. 2: Total Croatia News is a serious site, bringing you the most important news about Croatia in the English language. However, please keep in mind that my biggest (potentially only?) claim to fame is the fact that my article from a long time ago is still cited on a Wikipedia page for a TV show that has since won 9 Emmys, and is currently nominated for 25. Don't believe me? See for yourself, it's reference no. 89 in the article!)

So, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a TV show about a newly divorced lady from New York, who decides to pursue a career in stand-up comedy - in the late 1950s and the early 1960s! It has had a very successful run of 4 seasons thus far, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (of the Gilmore Girls fame), and starring the amazing Rachel Brosnahan as the title character, Midge Maisel.

In the aforementioned episode seven of season four, Midge has a conversation with Susie, her manager (played marvellously, pun intended, by Alex Borstein). Previously in the season, Midge has decided she doesn't want to open for anyone else, under any circumstances, and that she only wants to do shows where she'd be the headliner. Susie brings her the good news:

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Now, don't get me wrong: I get the point, I get the joke! But, many of my online friends have asked me, and I've since found out that there've been discussions about the mention of Croatia in this context. Important point: we know exactly when this episode is taking place, as it includes a long scene of Midge doing a performance at one of John F. Kennedy's campaign events. And as we know, he was elected to become the US President in November of 1960, so we can timestamp the episode as "during 1960".

So, let's go point by point, and untangle this mess:

  • Was there a 'Republic of Croatia' in 1960? Well, that's a "yes" and a "no" at the same time. The People's Republic of Croatia was a part of the Federal National Republic of Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1963, when the new constitution was instituted (after 1963, it was the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Socialist Republic of Croatia". Constitutions are complicated, obviously, but would anyone say that they were going to Croatia in 1960? Not very likely, unless they had close ties to the country. Would you say you were going to Montana now, if anyone asked you? Probably not, you'd say you're going to the USA, and then the next question might be about the state where you're going to.
  • Was Zagreb the capital of Croatia then? Yes, absolutely. It has been the capital of Croatia (at least!) since 1918, when it joined the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians (later to be renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), although the Croatian Parliament has been seated in Zagreb since 1825. So, nothing wrong there, Zagreb was the capital.
  • Is there any link whatsoever between Croatia and Pennsylvania? Actually, yes. There is a huge Croatian community in Pittsburgh (and the rest of Pennsylvania), and that's where the Croatian Fraternal Union was established.
  • Was there a thousand-seat theater in Zagreb in 1960?  No, not really. The Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall was the first such venue in Zagreb. It was decided that it would be built in 1957, the works on it started in 1961 and it wasn't finished until late 1973. Before that, except for a football stadium, there were no venues in the city of Zagreb with such a capacity.
  • Does "Make Laugh Showing Teeth" mean anything to anyone in Croatia, when translated? Absolutely not. I would love to know how and where the scriptwriters got the idea to give that name to their imaginary venue. No matter how you translate that to Croatian, there has never been a place called anything similar to that.
  • Were there electricity problems in Croatia in the 1960s? Also, that's a resounding "No!" The former Yugoslavia, and therefore, Croatia, was very stable during that period. Stuck in a position best described as "no-man's land" during the Cold War, the Tito government was borderline pampered by both the Soviets and the Western powers in that period. Croatia was experiencing a cultural and economic boom in that period, as stated by the historians Tvrtko Jakovina and Dušan Bilandžić in their piece you can access here (.pdf, in Croatian). The economy was doing OK, and there were cultural breakthroughs that made Zagreb one of the centres of culture in Europe during that period (Modern Arts Gallery, International Festival of the Student Theatre, Animated Film Festival, Ivo Robić and his international hit "Morgen"* all happened at the time). The country has seen electricity rationing, but it happened 20 years later - in the period after 1983, the electricity was rationed in Zagreb (the so-called "redukcije", that this author is old enough to remember) and in other major towns in the former Yugoslavia. However, even when those happened, it was not "one night of electricity, six nights without", rather - we didn't have electricity twice a week. If my memory serves, it was on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, there would be no reason for Midge to travel in and out of the country each week, she could've had 7 shows a week in the sixties, and 4 or 5 shows a week even during the worst period of austerity before the Homeland War.
  • What about those freakin' shots? I'm not sure. Honestly, there's only so much research one can do for a piece such as this one. I don't know, and can't easily find out which vaccines the USA citizens needed in 1960 to go to the former Yugoslavia and get back (and honestly, I doubt that the screenwriters did any more research than I did). However, there are two points I'd like to make regarding the vaccinations mentioned: 
    • as anyone who's recently stepped on a nail or was bitten on the chin by their dog can tell you, the tetanus vaccination is a normal thing we should all take when needed, and it's not 'excruciatingly painful';
    • there was a smallpox outbreak in the former Yugoslavia in 1972, it's well-documented and written about. There's even an amazing movie about the outbreak, and you should watch it if you haven't already. However, that's more than a decade after the events of the episode we're talking about, and the smallpox threat was not considered to be high, so I'm not convinced that US citizens would need to be vaccinated against the disease for travel. I do know that the children in the former Yugoslavia were vaccinated against smallpox almost until the end of the seventies, to make sure that we don't have another outbreak.

 

So, not having lived in Zagreb in 1960, what do I think, would it be the worst thing in the world for the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to perform here? No, I honestly don't. There was electricity, there were people who'd be interested in seeing her perform, but unfortunately, there wasn't a thousand-seat theatre for her to perform in, especially not one called "Make Laugh Showing Teeth" or any version of that name.

 

* - featured in another international TV hit this year, Natasha Lyonne's second season of Russian Doll, as shown below:

Sunday, 31 July 2022

A Father's Promise Fulfilled! 50 Islands, 1 Swim, 1 Legend

July 31, 2022 - The most beautiful story to come out of Croatia in this and many a year. A father's promise fulfilled, as Ribafish completes his swim to Croatia's 50 inhabited islands. Bravo!

I never got to meet young Rok before his life ended tragically so young, but I have heard lots about the special bond that he shared with his father, Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish. And I cannot imagine a child being more proud of his dad than Rok would have been at the end of his father's momentous journey.

I have heard a lot of their joint love of the Adriatic and of Dad's promise to take him to all the inhabited islands in Croatia, as he did not have money to take him to New York and Paris.

Of how, after the tragic loss so young, a father's promise to him son was fulfilled, and in quite the most beautiful way. 

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Scattering Rok's ashes in the Adriatic close to their favourite beach on Korcula, Ribafish vowed to fulfill the promise to visit all 50 islands by swimming from one to the next, from the south to the north, with Rok by his side. And not just swim, but also to educate children on the way on the environment, growing up happy, and spending time with their parents. You can learn more about the project from this previous TCN report.

What to say - Ribafish did it! And rather than me tell you about it, here he is in the form of the official press release. Respect, Sir, you have inspired thousands.  

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Project #Rokotok - promise fulfilled! Ribafish was the first in history to connect 50 Croatian inhabited islands by swimming, learning and socializing

Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish fulfilled the promise he made to his son. The #Rokotok flag has flown on 50 Croatian inhabited islands, which for the first time are connected by swimming, but also by a story. A story about a project that reminded the islanders and their guests of the importance of preserving the environment and growing up happily, filled with spending time with friends and parents.

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The project, which the media declared "the most beautiful story of the summer", celebrated its grand finale, after nearly 54,000 meters of swimming, in the third, last phase, in Punat on the island of Krk. RokOtok's official swimmer Boris Korbar, four locals and Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish jumped into the sea from the boat near the islet of Košljuna. A few boys joined them and they all reached the waterfront with ease, in about twenty minutes, where they were greeted by about five hundred children and adults.

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Ribafish looks at those last 800 meters of the 210 kilometers swam during the project along the Adriatic, from Koločep to Krk, with a gap of a few days, as the most emotional moments. "It was not easy to get out of the sea in front of all those people, while emotions of sadness were interwoven in me, but also enormous gratitude for the support of all the people who welcomed me at this and all other locations, and all my Rokotočans who during all three phases project, on the four-year long journey, were with me", he said and added that he will use August for a holiday on Korčula, where he will be surrounded by his closest relatives, process everything with himself and sifting through memories, looking for inspiration for some new ideas through that #Rokotok as a project will live in the future.

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Along with the crew, numerous swimmers and thousands of islanders and their guests are also included in the "memoir" of the #Rokotok project. They all listened to the story about the problems faced by the islands, swimming, nature, ecology and parental love, looked for and hid "treasures", and Ribafish points out that he hopes they all remembered the key message of this project, the message in which he found the meaning and what was its driving force - that promises must be fulfilled.

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The final reception was organized by the Punat Tourist Board headed by director Branko Karabaić. After the lecture and hanging out with the kids, Ribafish placed the last geocache, thus motivating some other kids who will visit this beautiful island and destination in the future to research. Here, too, the children were delighted with the gifts. On the last 17 islands during July 2022, 2,200 were distributed (over 6,000 in all three phases), and Ribafish himself received a gift of personalized #Rokotok tennis shoes, three fish for the three phases of the project, a delicious cake and what he considers the greatest gift - smiling faces, warm words and hugs from little and big kids.

During the project, Shortest Path Production recorded all the material for the upcoming documentary film (expected in the fall of 2023), and in September, along with an appropriate exhibition of pictures by the official ship photographer Ivan Čujić and posters drawn by children on the islands, a press conference of the project will be held. where everyone interested will be able to learn about plans for the future.

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Thank you all for being part of the most beautiful story of the summer and helping to fulfill a promise.

The project was supported by Sport Vision Croatia, RBA, HTZ, Rio Mare, Hyundai Croatia, Offertissima, UHU, Rubor Autoservis Zapruđe, Jamnica, Offset.hr, Pašmanero, Solgar, Insako and many others...

You can learn more about the RokOtok project on the official website.

****

What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: the Insider Guide to Surviving Croatia will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Unique Mali Brijun Catamaran Ready to Sail at Brijuni National Park

July the 31st, 2022 - The truly unique Mali Brijun catamaran is ready to set sail, and will be a real hit for all those who use it to see the stunning Brijuni archipelago, which attracts countless visitors each year.

As Morski writes, Marino Milotic, the director of the gorgeous Brijuni National Park, explained how each client is demanding and has some highly specific requirements and needs when it comes to vessels.

''The navigation of the shallow seas in the Brijuni National Park is just as demanding and very specific as those requirements are, and the Mali Brijun catamaran was an extremely demanding vessel to construct precisely because of the fact that it needed to be able to sail through the strait between Veliki and Mali Brijun,'' Milotic told HRT.

In the womb of the vessel, the answer to the question of how this unique prototype will satisfy the set ecological standards of the Brijuni National Park is clearly answered.

''We have a diesel generator which always works at an optimal operating regime. The vessel is equipped with two engines and depending on the needs of the propulsion power, either one or both can be used, so it is essentially optimised in terms of fuel consumption and this has achieved this environmentally friendly effect,'' said Niko Skala, Tehnomont Technical's director.

Shipbuilders struggled to construct the vessel, but they didn't disappoint with the amazing outcome. However, the most interesting part of the Mali Brijun catamaran story worth more than 12 million kuna lies in the project team of the client. With the exception of external associates, the project of the contracting and construction of the ship, was done by an entirely female team. Most didn't have any shipbuilding experience or foreknowledge.

''This project has lasted for more than two years. We've been focused on it totally for more than two years,'' said Marina Giachin Pauletic, head of the maintenance and transportation department.

''The design and construction of the ship lasted for two years, however, everything that preceded the signing of the contract with the shipyard lasted for almost an additional two years. So, the absolute specification techniques needed to be prepared, we needed to create a certain study of the maritime conditions of the Fazana Channel and the like, so when it comes to that, an enormous contribution was provided by my colleague Katja Regvat - the same is true for the design, and the most deserving of praise for the successful public procurement procedure, which was also quite complex, is my colleague Dusanka Cvijanovic, and I'd also like to thank Milena Kostovic, too,'' said Masa Mihelic, head of the project preparation and implementation department.

''We had a great responsibility on our shoulders, but I think in the end we were able to do it all and do it well,'' Giachin Pauletic added.

The capacity of the new Mali Brijun catamaran is 150 passengers, which a four-member crew and a commander will take care of.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Hrvatska Postanska Banka's Organic Growth Sees it Pushed Forward on Market

July the 3st, 2022 - Hrvatska Postanska Banka has been pushed forward significantly on the market owing to its organic growth and the excellent business being done, not to mention a new acquisition.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, during the first six months of 2022, Hrvatska Postanska Banka achieved strong growth in terms of the wider HPB Group's assets and the acquisition of Nova Hrvatska Banka (New Croatian Bank), which is now successfully operating. All of the above has significantly strengthened its overall market position.

After a record 2021, a ten digit net profit of 1.066 billion kuna was realised at a consolidated level as a result of income due to acquisition activities and profit creation at the bank's level. A significant increase in property of 7.7 billion kuna indicates a strong step towards the entry of HPB into the top five banks per total assets on the entire Croatian market.

The main factors of the record positive results of the wider Hrvatska Postanska Banka Group in the first six months of 2022, in addition to the effects of acquisition activities, were the profits made from business even in these dire circumstances of growing inflation and the cost of adjusting business for the introduction of the euro in 2023. Hrvatska Postanska Banka successfully annulled the unfavourable effects of the drop in the price of bonds caused by the announcement of a change in monetary policy to restrain inflation and continued to implement the multitude of strategic projects of the HPB Group.

Back on March the 1st, 2022, the Hrvatska Postanska Banka took over Sberbank d.d., now called Nova Hrvatska Banka, which enabled it to stabilise its business, in that it also secured the preservation of its property and the property of its clients.

A significant increase in the Hrvatska Postanska Banka deposit and the stabilisation of Nova Hrvatska Banka's business, after them having taken it over, contributed to a much more favourable liquidity position and the strengthening of the potential to continue the realisation of a planned market share. The complementary and quality credit portfolio of Nova Hrvatska Banka has also further strengthened the stable and growing credit portfolio of HPB in almost all possible segments.

In addition to the record low level of the stake in unchanging loans, the activities of the diversification and increase in the quality of the bank's card products are reflected in the growth of total revenue from 7.7% fees that have mitigated the drop of net interest income of 6.0% (unconsoilidated) provided by a competent environment.

Thanks to cooperation with a strategic partner, Croatian Post (Hrvatska posta), Hrvatska Postanska Banka has continued to increase the availability of its financial services to different segments of clients even in the smallest and most remote rural locations that have a post office available.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Primosten Beach Made More Disability Friendly With New Automatic Aid

July the 31st, 2022 - Primosten beach has been made much more disability friendly with the addition of a new automatic aid to allow those who struggle with physical disabilities the ease of entry and exit into and out of the sea below.

The Republic of Croatia is full of ancient stone streets, hills, mountains, thin, slippery steps and narrow old streets. If there is one thing it struggles to be purely due to the very nature of the way its cities and towns have been designed, not to mention the natural landscape, it's disability friendly. Things are changing, however, and Primosten beach is the latest in a line of beaches up and down the coast to make things more accessible and easy for those who have various diabilities which hinder them.

As Morski writes, the Municipality of Primosten has received an automated aid for people with disabilities with which they can easily and independently enter the sea in a safe and secure way.

''Leading with the fact that the Municipality of Primosten is a leading destination during the summer months in the sense of the visits made by foreign and domestic tourists alike, listening to peoples' needs, and especially those with special needs, the first Aqualift has been installed on the beach on Ban Josip Jelacic Street (Ulica ban Josipa Jelacica), which will allow people with disabilities to enjoy smooth access to the sea below,'' they explained from the Municipality of Primosten.

The operation of the new Aqualift aid is fully automated and adapted to ensure the user independent and easy access the sea below with minimal effort and with maximum safety ensured. The procurement was funded in part from the budget of the Municipality of Primosten, while the second part was funded by the state budget of the Republic of Croatia.

With this project, this Primosten beach, with an already existing ramp, has provided people with disabilities even an even simpler and more practical approach to the sea in order to cool off during the scorching and often harsh and oppressive summer months.

The initiator of the idea was Jadranka Luketa-Markovic, as reported by local portal Primosten Plus.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Rijeka Cruise Ships Arrive Carrying Thousands of Tourists This Weekend

July the 31st, 2022 - Rijeka cruise ships arrived this weekend carrying thousands of passengers into the formerly industrial Northern Adriatic city. Tourists have been becoming more and more of a frequent sight in this part of Kvarner over more recent years, as more people discover the Croatia outside of Dalmatia and the islands.

As Morski writes, on Saturday morning, two large cruise ships, "Mein Schiff 5" and "Marella Explorer 2", and more than ten smaller cruise ships-sailboats belonging to ID Riva Tours, carrying more than 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members, arrived in the City of Rijeka, the Tourist Board of the City of Rijeka reported.

The Rijeka Tourist Board and the Kvarner Tourist Board, together with the Port Authority of Rijeka, welcomed the guests from the cruise ship by presenting them with welcome gifts and informative brochures so that they could spend their time in Rijeka as well as possible.

Numerous excursions have been organised for these cruise ship guests, and the most interesting of which are excursions to Rijeka itself and its surroundings, as well as to the nearby island of Krk, Istria County and the City of Zagreb, as was reported by Index. Most of the guests who are set to stay in Rijeka visit Trsat and enjoy organised tours of the city centre, taking in cultural and historical sights, markets and local museums.

"By the end of the year, we expect several more cruise ships to enter Rijeka's waters''

With the arrival of Rijeka cruise ships, which were until recently a far more common sight docked in the ports of various Dalmatian cities much further south down the Croatian coastline, the City of Rijeka is being promoted as a tourist destination of its own, as well as a recognisable cruise destination.

Rijeka is resting and breathing easily owing to the fact that it has fully recovered after the global coronavirus pandemic and has now returned in an even better state than it was in back during the pre-pandemic, record-breaking year of 2019.

''By the end of the year, we expect several more Rijeka cruise ships, two in August, September and October and one in November, which is certainly a good announcement for an excellent post-season and a complete recovery of that segment of the market,'' they pointed out from the Tourist Board of the City of Rijeka.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

"Tokyo Before/After“ Exhibition at Zagreb's Archaeological Museum

ZAGREB, 30 July 2022 - The travelling exhibition "Tokyo Before/After", featuring 80 photographs by Japanese artists showing historical and contemporary Tokyo, opens at the Gallery of the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb on 3 August.

The photographs are divided into two groups -- one showing the Japanese capital in the 1930s and 1940s and the other showing images of it captured after 2010.

Before Croatia, the exhibition has visited Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Germany and Oman, and after Zagreb it travels to Iran and Egypt.

The exhibition remains open until 25 August, and admission is free. The organisers are the Japanese Foundation, the Japanese Embassy and the Archaeological Museum.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 16. Living 13 Years Full-Time on Hvar Island

July 31, 2022 - Twenty years a foreigner in Croatia. Part 16 of 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years - what is it like to live 12 months a year on Hvar island, for 13 years? And does it change you?

"Hvar island is so beautiful; you made a great choice. How did you come to live here?"

It is one of the most-asked questions of my life. And the answer (for those who have not already heard the story, which is well-documented) sums up the randomness of my life so far at the tender age of 53. 

I have never been one to plan. My kids often wonder how I am still alive after hearing some of my travel stories of plane crashes, guns to the head, and inadvertently walking into gun battles in the West Bank. Family life has made me a lot more cautious for sure, but before family life... 

A typical bout of lack of planning back in 2002 had me working as a Civil Society Coordinator in Somaliland and Puntland, the dangerous autonomous bit of Somalia where those pirates hang out.  

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(Somaliland was very safe, but Puntland was something else - taking the load from my 24/7 bodyguard, Arafat in Puntland in 2002)

I was based mostly in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a very peaceful place, and I was sharing a house with 8 African colleagues from Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. I was the only pink boy in the house. It was a fantastic experience in general, and I made some good friends. We played a lot of Scrabble, they more than me, and I would get into the habit of taking a gin and tonic to the rooftop at the end of the day and watch the world go by, an admirable self-proclaimed state which was rebuilding itself without international money or recognition. 

On the evening in question, I had just got news that my house in the UK had sold, the money was in the bank, and I was free to sever all ties with Britain and buy a house somewhere in Europe. Somewhere by the sea, I decided. 

My glass inexplicably empty, I ventured downstairs for a refill and a planned contemplation where I might buy my new home. I had no plans to live there full-time, for I planned to continue my aid worker career, but it would be nice to have a base, somewhere to keep my books that friends could visit. 

The guys were busy with Scrabble, and CNN was on the television, the only station we could get. I was just putting the ice in the gin, when THAT advert came on.

Croatia, the Mediterranean as It Once Was.

Sure beats Croatia, Full of Life as a slogan, doesn't it?

I was hooked. The Croatian National Tourist Board's niche marketing to fat pink Brits in northern Somalia was highly targeted and effective. How ironic that 18 years later, that same fat Brit would be the only blogger/journalist sued by the national tourist board in the whole of 2020. Not once, but twice. (Read more in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit)

A few weeks later, I found myself in Sarajevo, having a beer with a Canadian aid worker friend who had been inside Sarajevo during the siege, but managed to get to the Adriatic coast for regular R&R. She knew the Croatian coast well and suggested we decide on a destination, then visit it the following weekend with her Bosnian boyfriend to see if we could find a place for me. 

It sounded like a plan and, as I didn't really know Croatia, Kendra got a pen and paper and said she would make a list of top 10 places and explain a little about each. I could then choose one, and we would head there early on Friday morning. 

"Number 1 - Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic, famous for its amazing old walled town. Number 2 - Split, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian's Palace. Number 3..."

It was a balmy summer's evening, the beer was hitting the spot, and these Sarajevan ladies were smoking hot. I stopped listening, in the way one does when one asks for directions and then stops listening to the extended explanation from a passer-by. Perhaps I should live in Sarajevo instead?

"Number 10 - the island of Vis. A fascinating military island closed to the world until 1991. That's it. So which one do you like the most?"

I was so embarrassed that I had not been listening, so I closed my eyes and put my finger on the list. 

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(My unpronounceable new home, by Romulic and Stojcic)

Number 6 - Hvar.

"Hvar! Great choice. You do know it is an island, don't you?"

I had never heard of it (and still can't pronounce it properly).

"Of course, and it is very beautiful, isn't it?" (It must be, because it is on your list).

The story of how I bought the house will be explained in detail in the book version of this chapter (20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: the Insider Guide to Surviving Croatia will be out by Christmas. If you would like a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book, and I will contact you when it is published), but I want to focus on the Hvar living experience here. 

Those initial weeks were blissful, and so carefree. I moved in in mid-September, fully expecting the island to be at peak season levels 12 months a year (did I mention that I never plan?). September was quieter than August, but SO refreshing. I was trying to lose weight, and I got into a daily routine of rising at 06:00, then walking along the sea to beautiful Vrboska, where I would have a morning cup of tea on the water about 06:45, then a leisurely walk home. 

That walk to Vrboska is such a wonderful part of the planet - here it is many years later, filmed during the pandemic, above. 

A cappuccino and cherry strudel on the main square in Jelsa after breakfast, just taking in the chilled vibe. And then a daily swim at Mina. I only learned to swim 4 years before I moved to Hvar at the tender age of 29, and doing laps from one side of Mina beach to the other was a daily task which I found very demanding but rewarding, given my terrible technique. 

The afternoon was spent working on my imminent bestseller, Lebanese Nuns Don't Ski, and the evening hour was at my local, Konoba Faros, whose warm welcome and hearty Dalmatian fare had me there every night until October 1, when it was inexplicably closed. 

"You are closed!" I said to the waiter, who I saw having a coffee on the pjaca the next morning. When will you reopen?"

"In May."

May!?! - that is SEVEN months away. What kind of restaurant closes for 7 months a year?  

The kind of restaurant which is on an island with tourism about 4 months a year. 

October was a shock.

Indeed a series of shocks. With most things now closed for the winter, life was not as much fun.  And it was colder at night. I looked for the heating in the house only to find that there was none. Welcome to Dalmatia.

I didn't have many friends, and I didn't have much to do. And I didn't care that much. There was some money in the bank, and my bestseller would establish me as a world-famous writer. I accepted invitations to pick grapes and olives, a perfect entrance to the Dalmatian way of life. Be at this cafe at 07:00 and we need to leave immediately, for soon it will be too hot to pick. Dutifully I did, only to be joined by the rest of the crew an hour later. Ah, let's have a bevanda (red wine and water) before we start. And then another. And another.

The picking done, back to the konoba for grilled fish, fresh vegetables, and litres of wine in plastic bottles. Bottle empty? Simply go to the tank and refill. 

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My favourite recollection of this time was a boozy lunch with about 8 locals, the conversation all in Croatian. I understood every 100th word, but I was happy in the company. We had grilled sardele (sardines). I am not known for squeezing every piece of flesh from a fish off the bone over lunch (which is VERY un-Dalmatian), particularly the heads, and I left a reasonable amount on my plate, each head intact. 

The chap opposite me had never even acknowledged my existence before or after, and he only ever uttered one sentence to me in his life:

"Are you eating those fish heads or what?" When I said no, he took the plate and the fish heads were gone in seconds. He never looked in my direction again. 

Looking back, life was really blissful. I was a total Croatia virgin, living in a tourism bubble. I did not really appreciate it at the time, but the war had only finished 7 years before, and foreign tourists were very welcome, especially those who would spend all year. It was complete heaven, and the nature was divine.

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I always wore short sleeves in winter. Trust me, when you have been brought up in a Jesuit boarding school in the north of England, then spend a winter on the edge of Siberia in temperatures of minus 32, winters in Dalmatia are mild. My t-shirts were in contrast with locals in several layers of clothing, and my first island nickname (you are not an islander if you do not have a nickname) was coined - Ludi Englez (Crazy Englishman). 

Nicknames and the gruff Dalmatian way were hilarious. You could be in a meeting in a cafe and a local passing would shout  LUDI  ENGLEZ in your direction. It was a form of acceptance, and I appreciated the name.  

'Kratki Rukavi' (short sleeves) was another phrase that was shouted at me a lot, as I walked around in my t-shirt in the 'fierce' bura wind. I absolutely LOVE the bura, and whenever it came, I would open my arms in my t-shirt and embrace it. I have never come across a more cleansing natural experience in my life. It just blows right through you and you come out cleansed on the other side. 

Locals would look at me as though I was nuts. Perhaps I was. Ludi Englez indeed. 

(Blogging in #ForeverKratke short sleeves in the bura - you can't beat it)

I have never been materialistic, but Dalmatia removed whatever Western trappings that remained in my body. In fact, I can't remember the last time I bought something non-essential for myself apart from alcohol (and one could argue about its necessity...). I adored the fact that Dalmatia was so non-commercial. Even though the trappings of tourism and the modern consumer society and Internet shopping are encroaching on traditional Dalmatian values, this is still a region where time - if not completely standing still anymore - is moving very slowly. 

To live in a community where the Christmas tree went up on December 15 on the main square (as it did when I first moved), the first sign of the festive season (things have sadly changed), and Christmas Day comprising a present each and a great family lunch and healthy walk to Vrboska and back, was a blessing coming from a culture of commercial crap. 

Local kids had nothing, but they had everything. Not so many play stations, but the Adriatic as their private swimming pool, and a safe island to run around and enjoy in idyllic nature. 

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One of my best friends from school contacted me after 25 years. A successful accountant with a large house near London and his own boat, he was coming to Hvar sailing and suggested we meet. It was great to see him and meet his lovely family. We exchanged life stories, me talking a little about island life, he about the pressures of the job, leaving at 06:00 Monday to Friday, getting home at 21:00, then one night out with the wife a week on Saturday, and Sunday with the kids. He could not afford to live in London, but took the train an hour a day each way. But there was the compensation of being able to sail around Hvar for a couple of weeks a year. 

I smiled, and I was genuinely happy for his success, and he was clearly earning about 50 times what I was. But I wouldn't have swapped my Hvar island for anything at that point. 

The fisherman and the billionaire story - from my personal experience, and I would choose the fisherman every time. 

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I met a girl - the assistant librarian - in the library, and she took pity on me and consented to be my girlfriend, then fiancee, then wife. I don't write about the family much as it is personal, but suffice to say that being a Dalmatinski zet (Dalmatian son-in-law) is one of life's great privileges, especially when you have a legendary punica (mother-in-law) and punac (father-in-law) as I did.

I could take at length about Hvar island and the food, the wine, the safety, the olive harvest, raising children, and doing business, but these I have already covered elsewhere in this series.

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Apart from my lovely wife, there were other friends on the island, and we got into the routine of meeting for coffee (or something stronger) late morning at Caffe Splendid on Jelsa's main square, which became my office when I started our real estate business.

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The core crew were Vivian, a Croatian physio of international acclaim who had lived most of her life in London, but retired to the island, and one of her many badges was as the physio for the British Olympic team in Moscow in 1980; Mark from London, who started out as a real estate client, but quickly became my best friend and got me into all kinds of trouble; and Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects, whose success with the ladies was as impressive as it was inexplicable. The Professor and I teamed up together to start a language series on Hvar dialect that ended up being beamed into the homes of millions in the UK.

Here he is, with that iconic first video, the Dalmatian Grunt.  A e!

The core team was supplemented by lots of interesting characters who had bought holiday homes through me, as well as other expats and locals that came over to join our circle. There was an Irishman who was gold prospecting in Cameroon, UN consultants, a celebrity snapper who brought Jodie Foster to Hvar as a 15-year-old, and a blogger far more famous than me who frequented my office. I always really enjoy chatting to the BBC Sport's chief football writer, Phil McNulty, and it was amazing to learn that the most popular blog of the year - his Premier League predictions for the new season - is always written at Caffe Splendid in Jelsa. Great, so I can't even achieve the status of the best blogger in a cafe in the third biggest town on Hvar Island. 

Great brain food all round. 

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Healthcare was always great, not that I ever got really sick, but the emergency health point just outside the town was always excellent. On the one occasion we needed to get our child to hospital urgently, the helicopter from Split arrived in 12 minutes, and 12 minutes later mother and child were at Split hospital. You could not get there quicker from many parts of Split itself. Dental care was outstanding, and if you went privately, 200 kuna was the going rate for a filling.

So why, if life on Hvar island is so perfect, am I not still there?

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Life on Hvar island really IS perfect, but it takes a specific mentality to live on an island I think. I often say that full-time living on a Croatian island should be given intangible UNESCO heritage status, as without those who do, tourism would not happen to the same degree of quality.  And I would heartily recommend it as a way of life, especially if you have a young family. It is without doubt one of the best places to raise young children (20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 10. Raising Children), but it is also true that the reality of full-time living there is that locals are all busy making their money in the season, and so have little time to enjoy, and in winter, when there is time aplenty, nothing is open. Going somewhere for the weekend becomes a challenge after you have visited the low-hanging fruits of Split and surroundings, as everything starts and ends with a 2-hour ferry, of which there are only 3 a day in the off-season.

I personally MUCH prefer winter.

Although if there was no Internet...

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And, as wonderful as it is for young kids, options are more limited after the age of 10 or so. Besides we were ready for a change after 13 years - there are only so many conversations you can have about olives.  

Varazdin, and now Zagreb, has been a completely different experience, and I am loving the diversity and energy of city life, but always in the knowledge that my beloved Hvar island is just a few hours away. Having lived there full-time for 13 years, I now enjoy it in the same way that most Croatians do - in the summer. 

Oh, and the olive harvest of course.  

A new breed of foreigner is starting to discover Hvar and other Dalmatian islands - the remote worker. Just over 18 months ago, two digital nomads contacted me to rent our place, as they heard that the view and terrace were divine (they were not wrong). They ended up staying for 8 months after I helped them get the digital nomad permit. A very photogenic American couple from Silicon Valley, I thought they would make a great story on why Hvar island out of season. They agreed, some phone calls were made, and I do encourage you to watch this excellent report, which went out on primetime national TV (98% in English)  on the lives of Jess and Thibaud and why they love life on a Dalmatian island in winter, above. 

Are you a remote worker? This could be you...  

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That terrace view is pretty fab, isn't it? There are still a couple of weeks free in September (as well as 2023 of course) at Panorama Penthouse Jelsa, but hurry. 

I highly recommend it. Who knows, you may end up staying 13 years...

****

What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: the Insider Guide to Surviving Croatia will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Number of Great New films on this Year’s Brač Film Festival

July 30, 2022 - Idyllic summer cinema opens doors on 10th of August for the 8th edition of Brač Film Festival.

From 10th to 13th of August, summer cinema in Supetar on the island of Brač will be again hosting this remarkable film event. Through 4 days audiences will be able to see diverse film program made by first and second time filmmakers.

Real treats for all film buffs

Main programme is held in summer cinema every evening at 9:30PM where one short student film will be screened before a feature film. Screening of short films is designated for promotion of film students from the region. This year BFF will be featuring films “Gunz and Helmets”, “Crisis”, “Džonika” and “Sound Mixer”.

For the first evening, Brač Film Festival will screen the film Savages (dir. Dario Lonjak). This action-comedy brings story of three fans of the Croatian football team who mistakenly find themselves inside a terrorist camp!

The second evening will feature film As Far as I Can Walk (dir. Stefan Arsenijević) that had premiere on a prestige Karlovy Vary Film Festival where it received numerous awards

Third evening brings the highly anticipated film “Staffroom” (dir. Sonja Tarokić). Film is claimed from by the Croatian Associations of film critics as “definitely one of the best Croatian films in the recent history”. The film was awared on Pula with 5 Golden Arenas, including the Golden Arena for Best Film.

On the closing day of the Festival BFF will screen the sport drama Golden Boy (dir. Ognjen Janković). The film tells the story about 20-year old perspective football player who finds it hard to deal with all the expectations of the professional football league.

Films for kids, too!

From the very beginnings Brač Film Festival chearishes importance of the screenings for kids as their first encounter with the seventh art! Screenings of children film will be held on the summer stage behind the church every evening at 9pm. Films are suitable for kids aged 6+. Popular domestic film “How I learned how to fly” will kids be able to see before anyone, as right after the festival film goes into distribution. The film brings story of 12 year old Sofia, whose summer on Hvar turns into a real adventure. Kids programme will also feature films awarded on international film festivals, such as “Comedy Queen” and “Nelly Rapp: Monster agent” and animated films “Even mice belong to Heaven” and “Egg”.

This year’s Festival bring diverse programme. Due to high demand it’s important to get tickets in advance. Whole programme is available at the website: https://bracfilmfestival.hr/en/

To learn more about the island, check out the Total Croatia Brac in a Page guide.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Croatia Logs 1,496 New Coronavirus Cases, 12 Deaths

ZAGREB, 30 July 2022 - Croatia has registered 1,496 new coronavirus cases and 12 COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours, the national coronavirus response team reported on Saturday.

The number of active cases in the country stands at 10,435, including 668 hospitalized people, of whom 27 are placed on ventilators, while 6,407 people are self-isolating.

Since 25 February 2020, when the first case was reported in Croatia, 1,185,799 people have been registered as having contracted the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus, of whom 16,300 have died and 1,159,064 have recovered, including 1,565 in the last 24 hours.

To date, 5,046,775 people have tested for the coronavirus, of whom 3,816 in the last 24 hours.

For everything you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

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